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Pittsburgh, SMPTE, & Before by Mark Schubin

November 4th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe, Today's Special

This is SMPTE’s centennial year. Did you know the society might not exist if not for Pittsburgh? The same might also be said for the whole motion-image industry! Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh, Westinghouse, PPG, and even Heinz played roles.
Join multiple Emmy-award-winning SMPTE Life Fellow Mark Schubin as he provides a Pittsburgh-oriented illustrated talk about the origins of SMPTE, standards, movies, and television. Image scanning in 1843? Opto-electronic conversion in 1839? An item about a Pittsburgh-based television proposal in American Manufacturer and Iron World in 1880? Watch and be amazed!
Recorded November 2, 2016 at the Fairmont-Pittsburgh Hotel, Pittsburgh, PA.

Download link: Pittsburgh, SMPTE, & Before (TRT: 55:59 / 106 MB)

Embedded Player:

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Call for Proposals for Presentations at the 2017 HPA Tech Retreat

September 5th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Schubin Cafe, Schubin Snacks



Welcome back from Labor Day! It’s time to get back into the grind and to consider the Hollywood Professional Association’s upcoming technology event.

The 2017 HPA Tech Retreat will take place February 20-24 at the Hyatt Regency Resort in Indian Wells, CA (Palm Springs area). Those of you not familiar with the event will find information about last year’s on the HPA web site here. And this post from 2010, when HPA still stood for Hollywood Post Alliance, offers a broader sense of who attends and what takes place.

As usual, the 2017 HPA Tech Retreat is expected to have seminars, a super session, and a demo room. This notice is a call for proposals for two other aspects of the retreat, presentations in the main program and breakfast roundtables, both of those taking place February 22-24 (Wednesday through Friday).

main programTopics may include ANYTHING related to moving images and associated sounds, including (but not limited to) augmented reality, bit-rate reduction, the contrast-sensitivity function, digital rights management, energy use for HDR TV sets, format conversion, gigapixel imaging, higher frame rates, immersive-sound, just-valuable-differences, kleptomania in distribution, long GOPs in an era of rapid changes, multi-language subtitling, near-field communications, open-source processing, psychophysics, quantum entanglement for zero latency, retinal (frame-free) imaging, soundfields, terabit transmission, ultra-high-whatever, virtual reality, wider color gamut, x-rays in 8K, young interpupilary distances, and zoom lenses for 32K imaging. Anything from scene to seen and gear to ear is fair game.

No formal submissions are required. A sentence or two is usually sufficient. If we need more info, we will ask. Presentations in the main program are typically of half-hour duration, including set-up and Q&A (if any). Longer or shorter presentations can sometimes be accommodated; if a different duration is desired, please request it. Panels are typically longer. Panel proposers are expected to provide both the moderator and the panelists.

There have typically been about six times more submissions each year than can be accommodated in the main program; for 2016, it was more like ten times. Many factors affect selection, including themes that emerge from submissions, so rejection does not necessarily reflect on the quality of the submission. Presenters, moderators, and panelists may all attend their sessions free and get a substantial discount on the full retreat.

Proposals, which must come from the proposed presenter, should be sent to Mark Schubin at or by the end of the day on Friday, October 28, 2016. Every proposal received is quickly acknowledged; if you don’t receive an acknowledgement, your proposal probably wasn’t received. Decisions are expected around the beginning of December.

breakfast roundtablesThe breakfast roundtables are, literally, round tables at which attendees eat breakfast, starting at 7:30 AM. Each has a number, and the numbers correspond to lists of topics and their moderators posted at the doors. Attendees may choose a roundtable based on its topic, moderator, other attendees, proximity to the food, available seats, or other factors. Popular roundtables might be surrounded four layers deep; unpopular ones might have a lone moderator sipping coffee.

Unlike the main program, which is intended to be marketing-free, the breakfast roundtables are Liberty Hall. Moderators may teach, preach, ask, call-to-task, sell, kvell, or do anything else that keeps conversation flowing for an hour.

There is no vetting process for breakfast roundtables (though the size of the topic title might be truncated into a smaller version to fit on the list); there is, therefore, no retreat-registration discount conveyed by moderating one, and all breakfast-roundtable moderators must be registered for the retreat. Tables are assigned on a first-come first-served basis. Topics and even moderators may be changed at the moderators’ option up to the last minute, but once a moderator commits to a slot that slot MUST be covered from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM, even if no one else shows up and even if the moderator would rather sit in on someone else’s table.

Requests for breakfast roundtables may be submitted only by their proposed moderators to the same e-mail addresses. There is no deadline, but once the maximum number of tables is reached (nominally 32), no more can be accepted for that day. Wednesday and Thursday typically fill to the limit; Friday typically doesn’t. Requests should list the desired day(s) and the desired topic(s).

innovation zoneInformation about retreat registration (it often sells out) and Innovation Zone (demo-room) applications will become available later.  Check the HPA web site.

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Wow or Woe?

July 24th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Schubin Cafe

SMPTE 100rgbFINAL_small

image_681x647_from_3259,1543_to_4115,2357Today, July 24, 2016. as this image from page 13 of the July 25, 1916 issue of The Evening Star in Washington, D.C. indicates, is the 100th anniversary of the first meeting of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, the group that became SMPTE in 1950 when a T for television was added. The article noted that, besides Hubbard (then secretary of the Bureau of Standards), other speakers at that meeting in the nation’s capitol included a professor from George Washington University and someone from the U.S. Patent Office. Perhaps most significant, however, was the last line: “The next meeting is to be in New York October 2.”

It’s not that there was something special about the date or the city; it’s that the Society was very peripatetic. After New York came Atlantic City, then Chicago, New York (again), Rochester, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Montreal, and Dayton, all within the Society’s first five years. In the next five, it added Buffalo, Boston, Ottawa (Canada), Roscoe (New York), and Schenectady, with few repeats.

hpa_tech_retreat_uk_2016_heads_to_heythrop_park_resortI’m a “Life Fellow” of SMPTE, “Fellow” by selection and “Life” because I’m old and have long been a SMPTE member. When I began attending SMPTE’s annual conventions, they alternated between Hollywood and New York, but there was also an annual winter television conference. In odd numbered years it eventually settled in San Francisco, in even ones in other cities: Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Key Biscayne, Montreal, Nashville, Seattle, Toronto—even New York. As SMPTE has gotten older, it doesn’t seem to want to move around as much (or maybe potential attendees don’t). The annual convention is now just in Hollywood. Another annual conference, Entertainment Technology in the Connected Age, is also in California, as is the now-SMPTE-affiliated HPA Tech Retreat. SMPTE’s annual Future of Cinema Conference is slightly past the state line in Las Vegas. There are also SMPTE conferences in Australia and, as of this year, an HPA Tech Retreat in the UK, but, as far as the U.S. is concerned, California and Las Vegas seem to be it for national events.

TVT 2015 BBTBOf course, there are also SMPTE section meetings. The winter television conference was originally organized by the Detroit section, in conjunction with other nearby sections. Of late, some sections have been having their own longer conferences — one or two day “boot camps” in New England and Toronto and what the mayor of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, named “Bits by the Bay” (2015 version shown at right), organized by SMPTE’s Washington section.

Two big topics have been dominating those regional conferences of late: a transition from the serial digital interface (SDI) to internet protocol (IP) and another transition from conventional HDTV to what might come beyond (higher spatial resolution, higher frame rate, higher dynamic range, wider color gamut, etc.). For a presentation at a single, national conference, one could easily imagine any SMPTE member paying travel expenses and conference fees. To do presentations at all of the regional conferences would seemingly require the support of a manufacturer or service provider with a point of view. I attended all of the regional conferences in the previous paragraph, and, indeed, most of the presentations were by people employed by manufacturers; I’m pleased to be able to report, however, that corporate viewpoints were kept to a minimum, and even those presentations with the strongest viewpoints were chock full of information.

Boot Camp VII

Hugo G_Presntation_June 2016 trimmedConsider the SMPTE Toronto Section’s Boot Camp VII. As shown above, it was nominally a two-day conference, with a cookout the evening before. But the cookout was followed on the same evening with a presentation at the Rogers Centre stadium (formerly called the SkyDome) on the latest work by Dome Productions on a transition to Ultra-High Definition (UHD), including a mobile-production truck. Many have suggested that a UHD mobile unit would have to use IP interconnection technology, but the Dome presentation explained why they’d actually chosen to stick with SDI. UHD SDI connections can entail four three-gigabit (3G) SDI cables or a single 12G. That’s enough for pictures 3840 pixels wide by 2160 scanning lines high, maybe with higher dynamic range (HDR) and wider color gamut (WCG) to boot, but doubling the frame rate, too, would seem to require 24G SDI. Is such a thing even possible?

Nemo side detailOne presentation on the conference’s second day, from John Hudson, director of strategic technology and international standardization at Semtech, suggested that 24G SDI has long been in the planning stages. Of course, other presentations showed how a video facility might move to IP. There’s a lot of work involved either way. There’s also a lot of work involved in the transition to what comes after HDTV. Color-imaging guru Charles Poynton explained, for example, a practical problem with WCG. He pointed out that the exact color of the popular animated fish, Nemo (portion shown at left), is outside of standard color gamuts. And, if some sort of simple conversion from WCG to ordinary color is done, the scales on Nemo’s skin could disappear. In other words, Nemo would cease to be a fish.

03_production_areaThen there was one of the last presentations of the conference (the 20th), that of Brian Learoyd, engineering manager of Rogers Sportsnet. He told about the tremendous effort involved in launching a UHD channel. After figuring out how to get it up and running on time, he was called into a meeting and informed that, instead of one UHD channel, those in charge wanted four. For the one, Rogers Sportsnet got content from Dome’s new facilities. For the other three, HD content was upconverted. A panel that followed, on which Learoyd participated, explained how Rogers could get away with such upconversion; the difference isn’t all that noticeable.

Another panelist, Matthew Bush, president of Triangle Post in Toronto, and a big fan of the beyond-HDTV technologies, explained working on a UHD project with HDR and WCG. They showed the result to their client, who didn’t seem to think it was a big deal until offered a side-by-side comparison with the ordinary HD version. Then it was considered a wow.

As SMPTE heads into its second hundred years, it has developed and is continuing to develop the standards to smooth the woes of the transitions to IP and beyond-HD imaging. The society has members around the world working on everything from entertainment to medical imaging to motion pictures from deep outer space. A “centennial gala” is planned in conjunction with the annual conference in Hollywood in October. But the local sections do a heck of a good job of education, too. In my opinion, they’re a big wow.

SMPTE Centennial Cake trimmed

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The Bottom Line

January 26th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Schubin Cafe


Like many other innovations, high-dynamic-range (HDR) imaging can bring benefits but will require work to implement. And then there’s the bottom line.

HDR’s biggest benefit is that it offers the greatest perceptual image improvement per bit. Different researchers have independently verified the improvement, and it theoretically requires no increase in bit rate whatsoever.  In practice, to allow both standard-dynamic-range (SDR) TVs and HDR TVs to be accommodated with the same signal (and because not everyone keeps the appropriate amount of noise), the bit rate might increase a small amount — perhaps 20%.

Viewing Tests

Above are comparisons of viewer evaluations of higher spatial resolution (e.g., going from HD to 4K) at left, higher frame rate (HFR) in the middle, and HDR at right, with the vertical scales normalized. The distance from the top shows the improvement. To achieve the improvement that HDR delivers with a zero-to-20% increase in bit rate, HFR would need a 100% increase or more. Going to 4K from HD can’t even approach the HDR improvement, but, if it could, it would seem to require more than a 1600% increase in bit rate. HDR is the clear winner.

That’s one piece of HDR good news. Another is that it can deliver more colors separately from any increase in color gamut. It also allows more flexibility in shooting and post production. And it doesn’t appear to require any new technologies at any point from scene to seen.

Below is an image presented at the 2008 SMPTE/NAB Digital Cinema Summit. It was shot in a Grass Valley lab using the Xensium image sensor. The only light on the scene came from the lamp aimed at the camera at lower right, but every chip on the chart is distinguishable. From lamp filament to darkest black, there was a 10,000,000:1 contrast ratio, more than 23 stops of dynamic range. And, on the viewing end, TV sets have already been sold with HDR-level light outputs. New equipment might be needed, of course, but not new technologies.


That’s the good news. Getting everyone to agree on how HDR images should be converted to video signals, how those signals should be encoded for transmission, and how SDR and HDR TV sets should deal with a single transmission path are among the issues being worked out. They’ll be discussed at next month’s HPA Tech Retreat. And then there are interactions.

hue shift with increased luminanceSean McCarthy of Arris offered an excellent presentation on the subject at the main SMPTE conference last fall. Appropriately, it was called “How Independent Are HDR, WCG [wide color gamut], and HFR in Human Visual Perception and the Creative Process?” Those viewing HDR-vs.-SDR demos have sometimes commented that image-motion artifacts seem worse in HDR, suggesting that HDR might require HFR or restrictions on scene motion; McCarthy’s paper explains the science involved. It also explains how color hues can shift in unusual ways, becoming yellower above certain wavelengths and bluer below as light level increases, as shown in an excerpt from an illustration in McCarthy’s paper above at right (higher light level is at top).

Then there’s time.  McCarthy’s paper explains how perceived brightness can change over time as human vision adapts to higher light levels. And there’s also an inability to see dark portions of an image after adaptation to bright scenes. “In bright home and mobile viewing environments,” McCarthy notes, “both light and dark adaptation to [changes] in illumination may be expected to proceed on a time scale measured in seconds. In dark home and theater environments, rapid changes going back and forth from [darker to lighter light levels] might result in slower dark adaptation.” In other words, after a commercial showing a bright seashore or ski slope, viewers will need some recovery time before they can perceive dim shadow detail.

Billiards_ballsHDR also brings concerns about electric power.  It’s often said that the high end of the HDR range will be used only for “speculars,” short for specular reflections, like glints of lights on shiny objects, as shown on these billiard balls, from Dave Pape’s computer-graphics lighting course. If so, an HDR TV set would be unlikely to need significantly more electric power than an SDR TV set.

Samsung SUHDTV_UHDA_Main_2 (2)Those snow and seashore scenes, however, could need a lot more power if shown at peak light output. At right is a scene shown in promotional material for a Samsung HDR-capable TV, with bright snow, ice, and clouds. Below is a section of the technical specifications of the Samsung SUHD JS8500 series 65-inch TV. As shown below, the “typical power consumption” is 82 watts, but the “maximum power consumption” is 255 watts, more than three times higher. The monitor used in Dolby’s HDR demos is liquid cooled.

Samsung 65-inch SUHD specs cropped

All of the above are issues that need to be worked out, from standards and recommended practices to aesthetic decisions. And working such issues out is not really new. Consider those motion artifacts. Even old editions of the American Cinematographer Manual included tables of “35mm Camera Recommended Panning Speeds.” As for power, old TV sets from the era of tube-based circuitry used more power even with smaller and dimmer pictures. But then there’s the bottom line, the lowest light level of the dynamic range.

uhd_alliance_uhd_premium_logo_headerConsider the HDR portion of the requirements for the “Ultra HD Premium” logo shown above that Samsung TV. According to a UHD Alliance press release on January 4, to get the designation, aside from double HD resolution in both the horizontal and vertical directions and some other characteristics, a TV must conform to the SMPTE ST2084 electro-optic transfer function and must offer “a combination of peak brightness and black level either more than 1000 nits peak brightness and less than 0.05 nits black level or more than 540 nits peak brightness and less than 0.0005 nits black level.” The latter is a ratio of more than a million to one.

The high end of those ranges is beyond most current video displays but achieved by some. Again, new equipment might be required but not new technology. And the bottom end seems achievable, too. Turn off a TV, and it emits no light. Manufacturers just need to be able to have black pixels pretty close to “off.”

Ma8thew TV (2)What the viewer sees, however, is a different matter. At right is an image of a TV set posted by Ma8thew and used in the Wikipedia page “Technology of television.” The TV set appears to be off, but a lot of light can be seen on its screen. The light is reflected off the screen from ambient light in the room. Cedric Demers posted “Reflections of 2015 TVs” on The lowest reflection listed was 0.4%, the highest was 1.9%. Of course, that’s between 0.4% and 1.9% of the light hitting the TV set. How much light is that?

Luxury-holiday-letting-Hyeres-Le-Mas-des-iles-d-Or_10 (2)At left is a portion of an image of the TV room of a luxury vacation rental in France, listed on IHA holiday ads. The television set is off. It shows a bright reflected view of the outdoors. It looks very nice outside — possibly too nice to stay in and watch TV. But, if one were watching TV, presumably one would draw the drapes closed. If the windows were thus completely blocked off and not a single lamp were on in the room, would that be dark enough to appreciate the 0.0005-nit black level of an Ultra HD Premium HDR TV?

It would probably not be. What’s the problem? For one thing, the viewer(s).

Consider a movie-theater auditorium. When the movie comes on, all the lights (except exit lights) go off. The walls, floor, and seats are typically made of dark, non-reflective materials. Scientists from the stereoscopic-3D exhibition company RealD measured the reflectivity of auditorium finishes (walls and carpet), seating, and audiences and concluded that the last were the biggest contributors to light reflected back to the screen (especially when they wear white T-shirts). Discussing the research at an HDR session in a cinema auditorium at last fall’s International Broadcasting Convention (IBC), RealD senior vice president Peter Ludé joked that for maximum contrast movies should be projected without audiences.

Sony World Cup 4K to Vue WestfieldLudé went a step further. Reflections off the audiences are problematic only when there is sufficient light on the screen. So, he joked again, for ideal HDR results, the screen should be black. At right is an image shot during a Sony-arranged live 4K screening of the 2014 World Cup at the Westfield Vue cinema in London. The ceiling, the walls, the floor, and the audience are all visible because of light coming off the screen and being reflected.

Now consider a home with an Ultra HD Premium TV emitting 540 nits. The light hits a viewer. If the viewer’s skin reflects just 1% of the light back to the screen and the screen reflects just 0.4% of that back to the viewer, there could be 0.0216 nits of undesired light on a black pixel (it’s more complicated because the intensity falls with the square of the distances involved but increases with the areas emitting or reflecting). That’s not a lot, but it’s still 43.2 times greater than 0.0005 nits.

A million-to-one contrast ratio? Maybe. But maybe not if there’s a viewer in the room.

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Where Are We Going, & How Did We Get Here (The Future) by Mark Schubin

May 19th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe

Recorded during “An Evening with Mark Schubin” at the SMPTE New England Section, Dedham Holiday Inn on May 14, 2015.

We’ve sort of made it into the era of digital cinema and HDTV. What’s next? 4K? 8K? higher frame rate? higher dynamic range? wider color gamut? more immersive sound? direct brain stimulation? Will we still need lenses? How about cameras? Will this list of questions ever end? As just one example, Mark promises to show pictures from flying cameras that don’t fly (or even exist). He also promises to explain why more contrast demands more frames per second.

Direct Link (109 MB / 1:11:28 TRT):
Where Are We Going, & How Did We Get Here (The Future) by Mark Schubin


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Understanding Frame Rate

January 23rd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe

Recorded on January 20, 2015 at the SMPTE Toronto meeting.

In viewing tests, increased frame rate delivers a greater sensation of improvement than increased resolution (at a fraction of the increase in data rate), but some viewers of the higher-frame-rate Hobbit found the sensation unpleasant. How does frames-per-second translate into pixels-per-screen-width? One common frame rate is based on profit; another is based on an interpretation of Asian spirituality. Will future frame rates have to take image contrast into consideration?

Direct Link (61MB / 34:34 TRT): Understanding Frame Rate – SMPTE Toronto


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An Eclectic View of IBC 2014

November 2nd, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe

On exhibit floors that had products ranging from 8K cameras to automatic captioning, why were many visitors excited about Skype? At a conference where the title of one presentation began “Minimising nonlinear Raman crosstalk,” why did one press report comment on cinema-auditorium lighting and the gross receipts of one episode of one TV show?

Between bites of fresh raw herring, Mark Schubin wandered through IBC (moderating one conference session) and discovered those and more: for example, a 4K camera that can directly use long-range zoom lenses, a 3D display that doesn’t require either special glasses or a sweet viewing spot, the Holo-Deck, an immersive egg, the ability to zoom and dolly in post, and a fully accredited Wile E. Coyote.

Catching liars and thieves? Yes, there was that, too.

Direct Link (50 MB / 38:49 TRT): An Eclectic View of IBC 2014


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So, Tell Me More About More

October 27th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe

“So, Tell Me More About More”
Presented at the SMPTE-HPA Symposium
El Capitan Theatre, Hollywood, CA

Recorded October 20, 2014.

Get schooled in the technical considerations necessary to wrap our heads around resolution, contrast, color, frame rate, screen brightness, and immersive sound. A nuts and bolts, step-by-step explanation that will serve as the foundation to better understand the topics of the day.

Direct Link (70 MB / 49:10 TRT): So, Tell Me More About More


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“What We’ve Done and What We Might Yet Do”

September 13th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Download, Schubin Cafe

“What We’ve Done and What We Might Yet Do”
The Inaugural Meeting of the New SMPTE Pittsburgh section

Recorded September 3, 2014

As SMPTE approaches its 100th anniversary, it’s fun to look back at both our past and where we might be heading.  Paleolithic animation?  Flying cameras without the flying?  Watch and be amazed!

Direct Link (119 MB / 1:18:32 TRT):


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“…Not in Our Stars…”

April 17th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Schubin Cafe



A number of noteworthy events took place the week of April 6. Following the publication of former-President Jimmy Carter’s book A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, current-President Barack Obama issued an executive order and a presidential memorandum to try to reduce inequality of pay between men and women. The annual equipment exhibition of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) opened, and at the show Atomos introduced its Ninja Star, probably the smallest, least-expensive professional high-definition video and audio recorder ever. Was there a connection?

In much of the world, the status of women has greatly improved in a short time. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, women aren’t yet permitted to drive a car, let alone vote, but even in the United States it’s been less than 100 years since women were first allowed to vote in national elections.

Change continues. My flight to Las Vegas to attend the NAB show was piloted by a woman. When I deplaned, I saw a recruitment poster for the Las Vegas Police Department featuring a female officer. NAB’s Technology Summit on Cinema was presented by the Society of Motion-Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), whose president and executive director are both women, and the summit’s presentation on human vision came from a woman who probably had more advanced degrees (in fields ranging from theoretical astrophysics to neuroscience and psychology) than any male at any part of the event.


I attended an off-site technology demo run by a woman and featuring a female engineer. On the show floor, as I looked at a routing switcher and commented on its competition, a knowledgeable person gave me her detailed technical opinion about why her company’s products were superior.

On the other hand, as we walked down one of the exhibition’s aisles, my colleague Deborah McAdams, executive editor of TV Technology magazine, mentioned to me that there appeared to be an increase in “booth babes” this year. Having attended NAB shows every year for more than four decades, I had to try to put 2014 into its proper historical perspective. Magic-Mike-poster_event_mainCertainly, there were more “booth babes” in some previous years, but had they increased recently? Perhaps.

A “booth babe” is not synonymous with a woman in an exhibit booth. In addition to engineers, salespeople, product managers, corporate officers, and, of course, buyers, such women could include models used by camera, lens, and even lighting-equipment manufacturers to show the quality of their imagery. There are also “spokesmodels,” people who can memorize and eloquently deliver scripted oration — so well that it’s only when you ask a question that you realize they didn’t design the products.

I suppose it’s conceivable that a “booth babe” could even be male, though McAdams had a hard time imagining such a possibility; maybe one of the men in the movie Magic Mike might do. A “booth babe” is a person, typically scantily clad, intended to draw people into an exhibit by sexual attraction.

Apr9_ShowFloor_BlackmagicSometimes attraction — sexual or otherwise — seems desperately necessary. Portions of the show floor were crowded (see Blackmagic Design’s booth at left, even on the show’s last full day), and others were desolate (see Connected Media World at right, even on the show’s opening day, even with the registration area immediately adjacent).

So perhaps Unified Video Technologies (UNIV) can be forgiven for trying to attract visitors to their booth with women in shorts (and shirts, sneakers, and boxing gloves) taking swings at each other in a miniature boxing ring at the periphery of their exhibit. Not even their battling “booth babes” (click the image for a larger view), alas, drew a crowd.

Atomos_Ninja_Star_NAB2014_Magnanimous_Me_161315167_thumbnailAtomos was different. They weren’t located in a desolate section of the least-visited exhibit hall; they were in the center of the Central Hall, visible from Panasonic’s exhibit, a short walk from Sony’s, close to the toilets and food concessions — in short, in just about a perfect location. And their products were not insignificant attractions on their own. The aforementioned Ninja Star, for example (shown at right), has a list price of just $295! Other relatively inexpensive Atomos products shown could record beyond-HDTV signals, display images in accurate color, and convert between different signal types. Lest that not be enough to attract show-goers to their exhibit, the products were advertised on seemingly every public-area screen, from the farthest parking lot to the main lobby.

There’s more. If, somehow, all of the above were not enough to attract you to their exhibit, those advertising displays also mentioned that the company would raffle its more-expensive products daily. As might be expected, there was a crowd that extended across the aisle and in front of other exhibits. There were some young women at the periphery of the crowd scanning badges and giving out raffle tickets, but it was a fully clothed man (and not a Magic Mike type) who drove the crowd into a pre-raffle frenzy, having them shout cheers that could be heard throughout the Central Hall.

20140408_181005Then, after the crowd had already gathered, a woman rose to the stage. Her job was to draw the winning raffle tickets. She was dressed in a black bikini bottom but no top, though her skin had been painted.

Frankly, few in the crowd seemed to care. When the raffle was over, the crowd dispersed, though the topless painted woman was then available to pose for pictures (my apologies for the shaky-cam image to those of you who blow it up).

Did the Atomos topless-“booth-babe” gimmick help them sell more products? Or did some wonder whether products requiring such a gimmick weren’t good enough to attract customers on their own?

Having once attended a clothing-free computer-graphics conference in a Colorado hot-springs pool, I have no concern about nude bodies. But “booth babes” make me think about how far we have yet to go.

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